Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

A Life of Hope
in a Society of Fear.

A Feature Review of 

Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times
Adam Hamilton

Hardback: Convergent Books, 2018
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Reviewed by Ryan Johnson

 

We live in a society where fear has become ubiquitous.  It looms behind every corner, and for many it is impossible to go through a day without feeling its effects.  Those of us tasked with the responsibility of leading others are left wondering how to guide people to hope and courage through a labyrinth of fears.  Adam Hamilton, in his typical pastoral way, offers a resource for just such a purpose in his new book Unafraid:  Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times.

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A Holistic Vision
for Single Christians

 
A Feature Review of 
 

Party of One: Truth, Longing, and the Subtle Art of Singleness
Joy Beth Smith

Paperback: Thomas Nelson, 2018
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Reviewed by Gina Dalfonzo
 
 

Looking through the table of contents of Joy Beth Smith’s Party of One: Truth, Longing, and the Subtle Art of Singleness, one is hit by truth after mythbusting truth. It’s all right there in the chapter titles: “God Doesn’t Owe You a Husband.” “Singleness Isn’t Seasonal.” “Jesus Might Not Meet All Your Needs.”

And that’s before we even get to the section on sex.

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A Machine for Killing Complacency?
 
A Feature Review of 
 

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock
Gregory Alan Thornbury

Hardback: Convergent, 2018
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Reviewed by Aarik Danielsen

 

Growing up in the 1990s, I belonged to a bizarre record club.

No, it wasn’t one of those where you bought an album on the cheap, then received another slew of titles free—though I did take that deal a few times. The customs of this club, its members spread far and wide, included jettisoning all your secular music, only to chase after it like an indecisive lover. Plagued by alternating bouts of piety and spiritual paranoia, I threw away, gave away or sold my secular CDs on at least two occasions. These purges were meant to foster purity, to keep me spiritually tuned in; all they did was leave me with seller’s remorse.

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The Strongest Bond
We Have in This Life
 
A Feature Review of 
 

Everything Here Is Beautiful:
A Novel
Mira T. Lee

Hardback: Pamela Dorman Books, 2018
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Reviewed by Janna Lynas

 

I remember hearing the term, “Schizophrenia” as a high school student but didn’t understand what it meant. A few years later, as a freshmen in college, I’d sit in a Psychology 101 college class reading about mental illnesses and watching videos of the person afflicted with the illness, as well as their families. I silently prayed that wouldn’t be me or anyone I knew. It seemed like torture.

Twenty years ago, no one really wanted to talk about mental illness. The diagnosed, if they were diagnosed, received drug cocktails and families were lonely. There was no one waving a banner to talk about mental illness in public or otherwise. It was quiet, except for those who were left to deal with the loss, the medications, the relapses and the questions.

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Grounded Scholarship
and Spiritual Depth
 
A Feature Review of 
 

Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus:
How a Jewish Perspective Can Transform Your Understanding
 

Lois Tverberg

Hardback: Zondervan, 2018.
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Reviewed by Michelle Wilbert
 
 
The weekly Bible study I attend in my Anglican parish church is led by a remarkable woman—a retired a pediatric hematologist specializing in childhood leukemia—who, with her late husband, also a physician, decided, in their 60’s, to return to University for advanced degrees in Religious Studies.  Since his death several years ago, his widow has continued to teach our class by deftly combining her particular interest in spirituality and the arts with his scholarship and passion for ecumenical understanding and knowledge, particularly as it pertains to the Jewish roots of Christianity.   Over the years, we have learned so much about the rich religious and cultural antecedents of our faith, indeed, we have been led to revere vigorous study of the Scriptures through the lens of Judaism.

In light of this pursuit, I found this finely crafted book, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus by Lois Tverberg not only worthy of inclusion in that quest but an essential addition to any library devoted to ecumenical religious education, and to any reader interested in the deepest possible understanding of Christianity and of the first century Jewish world in which Jesus lived and carried out his ministry.   Dr. Tverberg holds a PhD in Biology and was teaching as a college professor when her fascination for biblical study was kindled by a seminar at her church. This led her to take several trips to Israel in order to study, taking courses in Biblical Hebrew, Koine Greek and in the historical and cultural context of the Bible.  She has made excellent use of her scientific education to write a book that thoughtfully—and thoroughly—interrogates the material and is outstanding in its structure and readability—it’s a truly use friendly guide for scholars and lay people alike–to understanding the Jewish history, culture and original languages of the Bible.

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Tracing the Reformation’s
Unintended Legacy

A Review of

Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts That Continue to Shape Our World
Brad Gregory

Hardback: HarperOne, 2017
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Reviewed by Joseph Johnson

 

It’s now been five hundred years since Martin Luther sparked off the Protestant Reformation with the publication of his Ninety-Five Theses. Whether or not he actually pinned them to a church door in Wittenberg or just sent them to Archbishop Albrecht, the ensuing movement of reform and protest against aspects of Roman Catholic practices and beliefs that began with him ultimately shook the foundations of the Western church and led to both religious renewal—for both Protestants and Catholics—and sadly also centuries of strife, division, and bloodshed. To say the least, the legacy of the Reformation era that we’ve inherited is a complicated one.

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The Politics of Religious Toleration
 
A Review of 

Enlisting Faith: How the Military Chaplaincy Shaped Religion and State in Modern America
Ronit Stahl

Hardback: Harvard UP, 2017
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Reviewed by Gregg Brekke

 

The formation of an “American religion” is an often discussed topic that generally weaves together a narrative consisting of Pilgrim religious persecution, pioneer independence, and patriotic zeal. Few, however, have sought to trace another unique aspect of religion is the United States – its peculiar and overarching pluralistic identification in modern secular society.

Ronit Stahl addresses the formation and dissemination of this association via the lens of the military chaplaincy throughout the 20th century in Enlisting Faith: How the Military Chaplaincy Shaped Religion and State in Modern America. Her argument centers on the ways in which chaplains were trained and worked to serve all soldiers, regardless of creed, instilling values in military personnel that ultimately influenced the broader culture.

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Rewriting the Racial Script of Our Time
 
A Feature Review of:
 

Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America
Jennifer Harvey

Paperback: Abingdon, 2018
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Reviewed by Cindy Wang Brandt
 
 
I have a mission: to do justice alongside my kids and all the children of our generation. But my firm conviction is that in order to do justice with them, we must first act justly towards them. For example, the best way to end vicious cycles of violence in the world is to begin by treating our children with gentleness in the home. And yet white kids, existing at the intersection of racial justice and justice for children, has been such a conundrum for the conversation—a paradox I’ve struggled to resolve—because it feels anything but gentle to raise white children into the awareness of their complicity in a racist society. Jennifer Harvey, in her latest book, Raising White Kids, demonstrates that power can and and does indeed arise out of softness, as she treats this highly contentious societal toxicity with the utmost empathy for parents—providing a “race and justice-conscious schema,” the term she uses to help parents raise white kids into a healthy self identity.

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The Urban Problem of Affordability

A Review of

The Creative Destruction of New York City: Engineering the City For the Elite
Alessandro Busà

Hardcover: Oxford UP, 2017
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Reviewed by Thomas V. Bona

 

When I last visited my native New York City in 2013, I made sure to walk on the High Line. I was stunned at how well the vaunted 1.45-mile greenway on an abandoned rail line on the west side of Manhattan lived up to the hype. Lush vegetation – and did I hear birdsong? – stood out over oceans of urban pavement. A literal park in the sky, it had food, drinks, art installations, and excellent people watching. I never would have explored this part of the city when I was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, when it was mostly aging industrial buildings, garages, and night clubs. Now it was teeming with life, as were a lot of other neighborhoods. With the “back to the city” trend and the strength of New York’s economy, decades of urban decay and disinvestment were beaten back. There were record numbers of residents, jobs, and tourists. What’s not to like?

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Expanding Our Capacity to Love

A Feature Review of

Unafraid:
Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith
Benjamin Corey

 
Hardcover: HarperOne, 2017
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Reviewed by Justin Cober-Lake
 
 
 
Benjamin Corey’s latest book Unafraid began with a spiritual crisis. Corey was paralyzed with fear, and he realized he could trace his problems largely to a flawed view of God. He had a fear of God – not the healthy sort of awe and respect, but a terror that one false move would bring him to God’s wrath. As the  thinker best known for his blog Formerly Fundie, he could have seen this problem in the roots of his early faith, but he also saw the same sort of issues prevalent in the context of his newer progressive outlook. His “fear-based faith” was limiting and destructive, and his new book mixes memoir, theology, and practice to look into religious fear and find a way to the God of love.

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